Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't Run Where You Can Measure

I did something dumb today. I ran on an official track. Up until today I had been feeling extremely proud of my growing fitness. I could only jog for a minute when I started. Now it's 25 minutes. That's huge. Feeling all full of myself I decided to run on the track at my kid's school to see how far I was going in that 25 minutes. Then I would know my pace. Guess what? A glacier could give me a run for the money. A woman WALKING passed me! I ran a 16-minute mile. In the running community that puts me in the Embarrassment-to-Land-Mammals category. Sheesh.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I did something today that made me really proud. A friend of mine ignored my request for communication and it didn't throw me. Instead of getting upset and trying to change my friend, I evaluated what would be the best thing for ME to do in the situation. In other words, I focused on changing myself. This is going to be hard to explain because I don't want to hurt my friend by revealing who it is and what they offered to do for me.

First of all, I was proud yesterday for keeping a level head in a conversation that was getting a bit carried away. I stopped and said to my friend, "I don't want to make a decision today. Let's sleep on it and talk about it again tomorrow." My friend offered to do something that I think was not genuine. In other words, I think the moment got the best of my friend and they offered something that they didn't really intend to. I wanted to have a discussion about it and ask some questions, but I felt like both parties needed to take a step back and think clearly first. I mean, I didn't even know what questions I wanted to ask in the heat of the moment. Anyway, today we did talk on the phone but my friend didn't talk about the offer again. When I asked my friend directly, they said they were going to keep thinking about it.

Now normally, if someone needed time to think something over, and it didn't impact me, I would say, "Of course. Take all the time you need." But in this case, it does impact me pretty substantially in terms of time and money and a decision needs to be made pretty quickly. And this friend decided that a discussion was not going to happen for whatever reason. They are going to make a decision independent of me and I have to assume that I'm supposed to do the same. I decided that I would just have to make the decision alone because there are factors that can not be discussed before a decision must be made. See, my friend is no longer available due to travel obligations.

This is where I typically would have thrown a tantrum. "Why won't you include me in the discussion? I have questions and I need more information! We should make major decisions together!" Blah. Blah. Blah. Then I realized that I already knew this is how my friend works. They never discuss decisions that impact me with me. They just keep information to themselves until they decide I need to know something. I am completely aware of this pattern. In addition, my friend is completely aware of how this infuriates me because I have asked them on multiple occasions to include me in a discussion about major decisions that impact me. So here we are. We both know the other one's modus operandi. I can't get mad at my friend for just being themselves.

What I can do is stop playing into this behavior. This time I'm not going to sit around and fret over what my friend "might" have meant, or whether or not I should move forward before the door of opportunity closes even without my questions answered. I am not going to badger my friend for more information again and again. I am simply going to take the knowledge that my friend didn't want to discuss this with me and make the decision for myself. Whether the offer was serious or not, I am not going to accept it. I will not invest my valuable time or money into an enterprise with someone who is either unwilling or incapable of showing me basic respect. And I think this is a respect issue. I have said to my friend, in no uncertain terms, that when they do not discuss things with me, it hurts my ability to make decisions for myself. Withholding information that impacts me is disrespectful.

Is this a maturity thing? I don't know. I genuinely believe that adults are capable of discussing their position with others. I want to have people around me who can tell me their opinion, ask questions and answer my questions, and not feel like they have to protect themselves. Just because I discuss options with someone does not mean I will decide for them. Nor do I assume that we will conclude in agreement. I want us all to retain our personal power and yet be able to share in the process of the decision. This is a basic courtesy, right?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Not Choice, Desire

I've been chewing over yesterday's post quite a bit. I don't think I expressed what I was feeling accurately. I know that being who I want to be is a matter of choice. That's not quite the epiphany that I was trying to verbalize. It really has something to do with desire. I WANT to make the right choices for me. That's what is new. I realize now that if I WANT something, I can just choose to do the work to get it. The only thing that can stop me from being who I want to be is me. If I want it bad enough, it will happen. If I want to be a strong woman, all I have to do is want to do the work. Or something like that...

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I wish you all the best! Jen

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Who Is This?!

Today I had a lot of stuff going on in the morning and I didn’t know how to fit a workout in. I decided to set the alarm and go to the gym really early, before the kids were up getting ready for school. What? I wanted to get up early to exercise? Who am I? This behavior is completely unprecedented.

For years people have told me, “You’re such a strong woman.” I hear it quite often. Every time I hear that, there is a coda in my head, “It’s just a front.” People always say that I’m strong, but I’ve known all along that it’s just an act. I puff myself up big and make noise like I’m strong. I know how to sound like I’m a tough, rational woman, but it’s just pretend. I wish I were a strong woman, but the act is all I got.

Inside I’ve always known that I’m not really smart, not really savvy, and definitely not one to make sound choices. It’s just not who I am. A strong woman is not obese, divorced, and unemployed. I talk a great game though. Nobody can fake Strong Woman like me. That’s why I hear, “You’re amazing,” so often. And right after I hear it, my brain gives me the coda, “It’s just an act.”

One of the things that I was busy with today was meeting with a friend. I was commenting on some of the changes that have been taking place in my behavior and the impact on my relationships. My friend said, “Most don’t know how to deal with a strong, independent person.” It’s the first time that I’ve heard it that afterward there was just internal silence. No, actually there was internal agreement. I actually had to stop the conversation because I was having an epiphany in that moment. I am a strong woman when I CHOOSE to be. It’s not like I am genetically predetermined to be weak and depressed. It’s a choice, or rather, a series of choices! Today I chose to get up in the dark in order to go exercise. Tomorrow I’ll make choices at Thanksgiving dinner. I’m making choices about my behavior in relationships. I realize that I sound like an idiot saying this, but I can choose the things that will make me strong. I can choose to be a strong person through my actions. It’s just that simple, if I let it be that simple.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Redefining Jealousy

Jealousy is ugly. I’ve been thinking about this emotion in the last couple days. I’ve only ever been in love with two men. Angus was jealous of the idea of me with other men. Robert actually accused me of cheating on him. I’ve had other men express jealous thoughts. But what occurred to me recently is that I’ve never had a man jealous that my mind was going to something else or jealous that my heart was going to someone else. Men only get jealous of my sexual desire, or more specifically, who has access to my kitty. It’s not the essential Jen, my mind or my heart, that they are jealous about. It’s a body part. What is crazy is that both of these men had ample access to my kitty and for a variety of reasons didn’t take advantage, but boy, were they mad when the idea of somebody else getting it popped into their head. And thus it dawns on me that jealously is NOT a loving emotion.

I know, I know. It seems obvious right? Well, I’m a slow learner, ok? There was a time when I thought jealousy was flattering. “He loves me so much! He doesn’t want anyone to have me!” Oh, hell no. The reality is that he is so insecure that he can’t take anything that threatens his manhood. It’s all about him and his own ego. It has nothing to do with me what-so-ever. If anything, it’s damaging to me. When a man is jealous and dumps it on me, he is punishing me emotionally because he can’t handle his own inadequacies. Jealousy is not a man expressing his love for me. It’s an expression of his own fear and pain about himself.

Sheesh. I wish I had realized this a loooooooong time ago.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fat Pressure

Warning: I'm going to ramble about science. Feel free to skip.

I checked a book out from the library called "Run for Life: the Real Woman's Guide to Running." It's a pretty good explanation of the biology and mechanics of running in regards to women's bodies. Anyway, I was particularly fascinated with the anatomy stuff: different muscle types, the cardiovascular system, and how joints work. But this stopped me in my tracks: "If you are overweight you should lose weight BEFORE starting a running program." Turns out that the extra weight puts extreme pressure on your knee and ankle joints. I mean, I knew that, but the description and terms like "psi" made me stop and visualize a heavy weight being dropped onto a pylon again and again. Obviously a bigger weight will do more damage than a small one.

So I wanted to know just how much my bigger weight is. I've been reading that your total body weight is not as important of an indicator as your fitness level, which is measured by percentage of body fat. For example, a body builder might weight more than me, but she's got more muscle and blood than I have. She would be more fit than me, even though she weighs more. I looked up what would be considered a healthy amount of fat and then took some measurements to calculate my own.

Obese woman: >32%
Average healthy woman: 25-31%
Physically fit woman: 21-24%
Elite athlete woman: 14-20%

Jen: 55%!

Over half of my body is fat. What a slap in the face.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


This week my Weight Watchers assignment is to meditate on what I'm thankful for besides food. This holiday in particular is all about food, so what can I focus on instead? The mental exercise is to "fill your plate" with all the things you're grateful for and then there will be less need to fill up the "empty space" with food. Get it? Corny, yes. Effective?

Everybody says family first, and I am thankful for my family, but that's pretty generic. Specifically, I am very thankful that my new living situation has freed up my mental and emotional energy to be loving to Griffin and Molly. Our relationship has been renewed. That means I'm very thankful that my parents are in the position financially and emotionally to support the three of us right now. We're a handful on both fronts.

I am immensely thankful that I was unable to find a job when I was frantically flailing around for one. Taking a year off to focus on me has been long overdue. I should have done it a long time ago. I was so busy driving myself forward that I never took any time to figure out what road I should be on. I am thankful that things are coming into focus in my heart and mind. I am beginning to see the woman that I want to be and the steps needed to get to her.

I'm thankful to Robert for dumping me. It was the final blow that made me say, "Enough!" I'm thankful to Cory and Terry for being my cheerleaders. I'm thankful to Stephanie for being my indefatigable guru. I'm thankful to Karin and Misty for being my down-to-Earth reminders to just be regular folk. And I'm very thankful to every one of you who has read this blog and sent me ideas and/or encouragement! I hear you and I take every message to heart!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm a Runner!

Today is the last day in week 5 of my running program. I just ran for 20 minutes with no walking breaks. When I started 5 weeks ago, I couldn't run for 90 seconds without my heart feeling like it was going to tear through my chest. Today I ran for 20 freakin' minutes! Ridiculous! Plus, I ran outside for the first time. I got out of the gym and ran on the bike path like real runners do. The whole first 10 minutes I was telling myself to get to the halfway mark and then I could walk for a minute. At 10 minutes I said, "I can make it for 5 more minutes." Then at 15 minutes, I knew that it would be absurd to stop with only 5 more minutes to go. My brain said, "You got this!" And sure enough, I did. In 4 weeks I have my first race, and I really believe I'm going to be able to run the whole 5k, no walking!

In other fitness news... Today was weigh-in day as well. Going into the Disneyland trip, I knew I wanted to relax and eat what I wanted to without counting calories. My goal was to just eat at mealtimes, no grazing on junk in between, and do my workouts. I mentally prepared myself to be ok with gaining 1 or 2 pounds. Well, I stuck to my plan and I didn't gain ANY weight. I stayed exactly the same as last week!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Happiest Place On Earth Part 2

Hello. It's the morning of our last day. This trip was not at all like I had expected going into it. I have had a wonderful time with my children and parents. The whole thing has been fantastic! Griffin and Molly have been amazing, and I don't think I've ever had so much fun with them. Everybody says that their kids are cool, blah blah blah, but my kids really are the coolest. They're great sports and easy-going, no whining or complaining. Plus, they just totally embrace the joy of this place. I won't bore you with a bunch of "Aren't they the greatest?" stories. But I have to share my two favorite moments.

Griffin and I have bonded over the "scary" rides. His favorite is the Matterhorn. My favorite is Splash Mountain. He did so well on the other coasters that I thought Splash Mountain would be no problem for him. I talked him into going with me. To cut this story short, the ride terrified Griffin. When we hit the bottom of the big drop and I turned around to high-five Griffin, he was shaking and completely ashen. He looked like he was going to throw-up. We got off the ride and Griffin was silent and not looking so good. I knelt down to his eye level and said, "Are you ok?" He shook his head no. I gave him a hug and said, "I'm so sorry Griffin! I didn't know it would scare you. I feel really bad!" He was trying really hard not to cry and said, "It's ok, Mom. I forgive you." Oh, man. That made me feel even worse! What an awesome kid! The cherry on top was that they snap your picture as you plummet down. I bought the picture because the sheer horror on Griffin's face as he realized that his mother had led him to certain death is priceless!

Molly's favorite ride was It's A Small World, so we definitely didn't see eye-to-eye on the rides. She was mesmerized by all the fairy tale details of Fantasy Land. For a whole day she stopped trying to act like a teenager and turned into an 8-year-old girl. It was wonderful. My favorite part was watching Molly watch the big parade that goes down Main Street every night. She was clapping and pointing and interacting with all the characters that came over to her. She waved her hands in the air and imitated the dancers. She sang along with the music. I don't know how to describe the energy that was coming off of her. It was like her little 50 pound body could not contain all of the happiness that she was experiencing.

And I've kept up with my workouts and tried to limit my eating to a reasonable level. Mom wanted to buy me a souvenir and I managed to find a workout shirt with Mickey on it. This morning I got up in the dark, snuck out, and ran longer than I ever have before. We're going to go to the hotel's water slide in a little bit and then we fly back home.

So, yeah, it's been a trip to remember forever.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Happiest Place On Earth Part 1

Today I got up before the rest of the family and was in the gym at the Disneyland resort by 6:15. Of course, the only other people weird enough to get up that early on their vacation to go work out are hard-core athletes. The place was packed with perfectly toned bodies. I spent my whole workout looking at the tight end and inhuman calves of Lance Armstrong's twin... not that I'm complaining. :) There were even two guys who were clearly body builders. I was totally intimidated, but I got up there and did my run. I was completely red-faced and drenched in sweat when it was done, but I was ridiculously happy with myself. When I got back up to the room, Griffin took one look at me and his eyes went wide with shock. "Whoa, you look like you worked really hard!" He came over and put his hand on my cheek and then jerked it away with a "ssst" sound. With a big grin and blowing on his fingers, he said, "You're hot!"
Yeah, that's right! I'm a rock star!

After that, we walked about a thousand miles, ate tons of food, rode some rides, and I'll fill you in on the details tomorrow. This is your roving reporter signing off.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the Road Again

Today is the big day we've all been waiting for: Disneyland! I'm excited and nervous at the same time. It's going to be a lot of fun to do this with Griffin and Molly, but I'm nervous about the food choices that will be available. I've decided that I'm not going to track my calories for the week. Instead, I'm going to try to make good choices and just relax about the food. I'm taking my exercise log with me, and I'm going to use the resort's fitness center to keep getting my workouts in. If I gain a bit by next weigh-in, so be it.

On the inspirational front, I had to get rid of a pair of size 22 jeans because they now fall off. The size 20 is getting loose, and I comfortably zipped up a pair of size 18 yesterday. I've lost a total of 16 pounds! That should be enough to limit my desire to throw all caution to the wind. I don't want to undo all this hard work.

Tomorrow I will be reporting to you live from the Magic Kingdom. :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reb Tevye, Stop Singing in My Head!

The topic at Weight Watchers this week was tradition. As we head into the treacherous holiday season, I am thinking about the land mines that must be navigated. Many things will conspire to knock me off my path in the coming six weeks. The obvious one is the quantities of food that will be in my environment from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Less obvious are the expectations of how much time must be spent with the family and the ways in which we interact. I am pondering which traditions nurture me and which traditions harm me. And once the traditions are labeled and sorted into their columns of helpful and not-so-much, then I must decide which battles do I actually want to fight?

"Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can't even describe and aren't even aware of." --Ellen Goodman

Friday, November 13, 2009

Done With Detox?

I don't want to set myself up for disappointment here, but I think I'm through the worst of this lifestyle change. My mood has been consistently up for over a week. I get out of bed in a good mood, spend my day exercising, taking care of my food choices, and general mental health maintenance stuff like reading, corresponding with friends, and practicing math for the GRE. I'm loving the running challenge and the weight is slowing dropping off. I'm averaging 2 pounds lost per week. Tomorrow marks the end of week 8 and I genuinely feel great.

Of course, that little voice in my head is saying, "Yeah, but you've been here before. You're successful for a little while and then something will derail you." That is true. I have been here before. About a year after my divorce I started Weight Watchers and exercising. But I was still in the middle of fighting with Angus about custody crap and then the bankruptcy process started. I wasn't ready to let go of my coping mechanisms. I was so busy trying to tread water fast enough to survive that there was no energy left over to actually attempt swimming... if that metaphor makes any sense. :)

This time feels different. I was drudging through it last time and resenting it every step of the way. My head is clear this time. I'm not going through any trauma. I have a secure, supportive living situation for me and the kids. I made peace with Angus a long time ago. Just recently, through some IM conversations, I've made peace with Robert as well. I'm in a good place. And I'm not resenting the food changes or exercise. I'm eagerly doing them. I'm proud of myself instead of feeling like it's a punishment. I want to keep these habits up long enough that the next time life throws me drama, and let's face it, drama is inevitable for us all, I will NOT be derailed. That's a feeling I've never had before.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I'm taking a break from the family history work today. I want to talk about my running. I am loving it. I'm up to running 8 minute stretches with 2. 5 minutes of walking between. There are 5 weeks until my first race. I am so freaking excited!

I've decided that my commitment to myself for 2010 is to run a race every month, whether short or long. I'm starting with the 5k in December. Luckily I live in "Track Town, U.S.A." so there are 2 or 3 road races every month. When I'm done with my current training program I'm going to start one for a half marathon. The Eugene Half Marathon is in May. Which got me thinking, what other big races could I do?

My goal is to complete the San Francisco Marathon in July, 2010. I have amazing friends there who I know will support me tremendously. Part of the race goes over the Golden Gate Bridge. How awesome and poetic is that? I am going to do it. Which got me thinking, where else could I go?

Hmm... I have good friends in Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Houston... What if I traveled to races? I could visit my friends, have places to stay, have the encouragement of awesome people, and earn medals! That is my new fantasy. So if you're reading this and would like me to come and race in your town, drop me a line. I'm going to take trips in the next couple of years to any and all who will have me!

Here I come!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Food Family Part 3a

I'm supposed to write about my sister Erin today. I don't want to, so I've been procrastinating all morning. I feel like I've told this story a million times. Plus, I'm angry that she had such a huge impact on me. As if her taking over the world for my teen years wasn't enough, now I have to deal with her legacy? Enough already. But I guess I can't deal with the present until I get over the past. There's no doubt in my mind that the majority of my food issues come directly from my experience with Erin and particularly, Mom and Dad's response to her. So I'll start at the beginning and see how far I can get today.

When Erin was 12 and I was 15, she began to starve herself. She had been experimenting with being a bad-girl for the past year. She got caught smoking and shoplifting. But when she found anorexia, she found her true passion. She is 4'11" and managed to get herself down under 70 pounds. I honestly can't remember the exact number at this point, but the first digit was 6. Needless to say, she was hospitalized. She was placed in the psychiatric unit because she refused to follow the doctor's orders. They had to immobilize her and use an IV to give her calories. Their goal was to put enough weight on her that her menstrual cycle would return. Apparently, that's the body's reaction when it is severely underweight. Your cycle stops because your body cannot support a pregnancy. So the bar for getting out of the hospital became periods. Meanwhile she was going through individual psycho-therapy and once a week we all had to do family therapy. At the time this made absolutely NO SENSE to me and I was pretty uncooperative about it.

I really thought it was black and white; either she's mentally ill or she isn't. If she's insane, then no amount of family therapy is going to do anything. If she's not insane, which frankly, I don't know how you could do that to your body and not be full-blown nuts, then she's in control of her actions and she's choosing to do this. Again, why would family therapy make her choose something else? If she's doing it on purpose for attention, then don't give her the attention. If she's mentally ill, then accept that and get her treatment. Somehow, I'm sure because of my inability to articulate much at 15, this got translated to, "Why don't you just punish her?" To this day, when Erin does something stupid like steal food from the house and I chime in with an opinion, my parents mock me by saying, "Just punish her."

But I digress. After spending most of her 8th grade year in the psychotic unit, Erin got smart. She realized that she could control her weight and keep herself at the magic number that would keep her out of the hospital by being bulimic. This number is somewhere in the 90s. Although, her periods never really returned to a regular, monthly normalcy. The doctors let her come home with the agreement that individual and family therapy would continue.

I thought things were really bad for those months that she was in the hospital. Mom and Dad were never home. I came home from school by myself, ate dinner in front of the TV, and went to bed. I didn't see my parents much as all. It turned out that these were the golden days of the "Erin Years" as we now call them. It was the quiet before the storm. When Erin moved back home, her bulimia encompassed our lives.

I need to dispel a common myth about bulimia. It's not that someone will eat a regular meal and then go throw up out of guilt. I've never seen that, except for in the movies. Real bulimics ritualize food and then the process of purging is a ritual too. First, Erin would go into the kitchen and cook elaborate quantities of food. She'd take a whole loaf of bread and turn it into French toast. Then maybe she'd eat a whole box of crackers with cheese. Then she might eat a whole box of cereal with milk. Then she'd bake a batch of cookies and eat them all. She would literally clean out the cupboards. This process could take up to two hours. Then she would wait for some internally prescribed time to let her body digest a portion of the food. Finally, she would lock herself in the bathroom and take an hour-long shower so that she could vomit in the tub. This process would happen twice a day. And in this manner she was able to keep herself just at that magic number that would keep her out of the hospital.

The first practical problem was that Mom and Dad couldn't keep food in the house. There were three other people who needed to eat. After a whole bunch of stupid strategies, they decided the only thing left to do was to lock the food up. They put a heavy duty bolt on the refrigerator and they moved all the dry goods into a hall closet, which they bolted as well. Then they hid the keys. That was somewhat successful in reducing their skyrocketing food bills.

The other practical problem was that there was often splatters of vomit in the bathtub and also, anyone who was home had to listen to her puking. It was simply gross. At one point, the people running family therapy (we needed 2 therapists) suggested that Erin could have a bucket in her room so that only she had to deal with the results of the puking. That idea didn't last very long because since Erin didn't clean up after herself in the public space, she sure as hell didn't clean up well in her own bedroom. Mom got disgusted and the bucket went away. Ultimately, they decided that the puking was just something that we all had to live with.

And now I'm emotionally tired and need to stop this for today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Food Family Part 2

My mother is a glutton. I don’t know how else to describe it. She takes a perverse pleasure in an abundance of food. For some reason, it’s the quantity of good food that makes her feel… whatever it is it makes her feel. I’ll try to illustrate. There are usually 6 people at Christmas dinner. When she makes the giant turkey, she also makes a ham. For side dishes, she makes a vat of mashed potatoes, a large pan of sweet potatoes, 2 giant pans of stuffing, corn, another vegetable, rolls, a relish tray, and crackers with a salmon spread. Then there’s pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, chocolate cake, jello, and several different kinds of cookies and fudge. There is enough for 20 guests easily. All of this is just for our family of 6. You might think this is just holiday insanity. Oh no. This is how she cooks for us normally. If she makes hamburgers, there are also baked beans, potato salad, a green salad, corn chips, potato chips, and again, the relish tray.

I once attempted to talk to my mom about this need for massive quantities for food. Her denial of personal responsibility was immediate. “Oh, it’s a Southern thing. That’s the culture I was raised in.” Hmm… let’s examine that, shall we?

Mom was born in California in 1949. Her parents were share-croppers from Arkansas who moved when the war ended. They had been barely getting by with one daughter and then when Grandpa joined the Navy, he saw that there were opportunities elsewhere. They moved to Port Hueneme, California and Grandpa took a job on the naval base as a civilian. A little while later, Grandma found herself pregnant again and that was my mom. Mom was the first in the family to be born in a hospital, the same hospital that I would be born in 25 years later.

They lived a basic, working class life. Mom essentially grew up as an only child because her sister was 12 years older. She got married and moved out when Mom was 5. They were comfortable, but hardly living in luxury. I’ve heard Mom bitch that they would never let her get a big Christmas tree because it was too expensive. They were also devout Baptists, so extravagance was definitely not part of their vernacular. But she was exposed to her Southern roots. In the summer, they would drive to Arkansas for their family vacation.

Now remember she comes from share-croppers. These are farmers who don’t own their own land, but rather work the cotton fields of land owners in exchange for living on the land and a small percent of the crop yielded. In other words, they were dirt poor. When she talks about her extended family, she talks about her dad bringing them groceries because they would literally be subsisting on biscuits and flour gravy. She was the “wealthy” kid from California.

Now where in the world does she claim this “culture of abundance” comes from? Her plain Baptist parents? Her barefoot, cotton-picking cousins? Please, explain to me how you get the cultural expectation of needing a turkey AND a ham for Christmas dinner out of that? I might buy it if she would admit that her need for abundance has something to do with feeling deprived as a child, but that’s a stretch. Pete was deprived. Nanci, who changed the “y” to “I” in the 60s to be cool :), had two good, upstanding parents, a stable home life, and plenty to eat.

I honestly don’t get it. I have been disgusted by it for most of my adult life. I am embarrassed to sit down to dinner most nights. It’s too much. But it get’s weirder of course…

During my childhood, Mom told me not to eat too much because I would get fat, all while providing more food than any one person should ever eat. She was particularly invested in my breast size, repeatedly offering to pay for reduction surgery, even though I repeatedly told her, “No way!” So eating too much would make me fatter but Mom kept laying out the spread anyway. And you can’t turn it down. She takes it very personally if you don’t eat what she has cooked. Jesus, watch out if you don’t appreciate it. A common refrain is, “Jenny, why can’t you just say ‘thank you’!” So I’m a bad daughter if I DON’T eat it and I’m a fat daughter if I DO! What the hell is the right choice here?

See, Dad’s hang-ups make sense to me. Plus, he acknowledges them somewhat, even though he seems incapable of changing them. Mom’s weirdness over food makes NO SENSE. Why do we need so much? Why does she need us to be so fawning and grateful? Why can’t she acknowledge it’s about her needs, not ours? And most importantly, why can't she make the connection between the volume of food and the obesity that plagues us. It baffles me.

But not as much as the true psycho of the family…

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Food Family Part I

Alright. I've decided to tackle the three major food influences in my life in the order of easiest for me to understand to least easy to understand. That makes my dad first up.

My dad's name is Pete. He was born in 1943 and grew up in Minnesota and then Florida. Ironically, his parents picked up and moved to Florida, leaving his extended family behind, when he was 12. That's the same age that I was when my parents uprooted us and took us to Siberia. Oops. I mean Oregon. Pete has one older sister and two significantly younger siblings, a boy and a girl. The two young ones are 8-10 years behind Pete. What else? Oh, yeah. His parents were both raging alcoholics, I'm talking passed out in your own vomit kind of drunks.

Now his dad was a glazer who traveled a lot doing work on old churches. It was his mom who was home with the kids. She was drunk a lot, which meant that Pete had to take care of the little ones. His older sister was out partying and she was eventually a full-blown drunk herself. In addition, Pete also had to clean up his mom and get her into bed when he found her lying on the bathroom floor in the aforementioned puke. You can imagine that Dad is not very forthcoming with details from his childhood, so I'm not clear what their income situation was. I don't know if his mom worked. I do know that food was scarce and Pete and the young ones, who were basically in his charge, went hungry sometimes. And the last piece that you need to know is that both of his parents had a wicked temper and razor sharp tongues, especially his mom. I knew this woman growing up and she was sharp! She had a quick wit that could be used for good or evil. I have wondered if my tendency to blurt out sarcastic observations is not in my DNA thanks to her.

As a result of this upbringing, two major trends developed in Pete. The first was that wicked temper. The second was a compulsive need to protect food. He likes to direct how much each person gets, when they get to eat, and what they get to eat. And here's a big one, if you take something onto your plate, you damn well better finish it, because we do NOT WASTE FOOD. It's this intense scarcity mentality. When you combine that with the wicked temper, things can get dicey for his girls. There are two major incidents that stick out in my mind that basically summarize the relationship between me and Dad over food.

The first happened at the family dinner table. I must have been 5 or 6? Like always I was given a serving of that night's vegetables. I'm pretty sure it was peas. And like almost every night, I didn't eat them until last because I hated vegetables. Really, I didn't want to eat them at all but I always had to. For whatever reason I started whining about it this night. I wasn't going to eat them. They were now cold, I didn't like them, yada yada yada. This infuriated my dad. He yelled at me that it was my fault they were cold, I should have eaten them right away, I have to eat my vegetables, they're good food, etc. I mean he was really worked up. Well I dug in and refused to eat them. I was crying, Dad was screaming, my sister got sent away from the table, and Mom was stuck in the middle. It was a scene. Finally, my mom came in on my behalf and said there was no need to force me to eat the peas. Something snapped inside my dad and he got up from the kitchen table, walked over to the door that led to the garage, and put his fist THROUGH the door. Are you with me? He punched a hole the size of my 5-year-old head IN A DOOR! Are you picturing this? I think I peed myself. What happened next is a blur of screaming and slamming doors and getting sent to bed early. The message was clear. Dad was crazy and survival dictated that you did what he told you to do, even eating cold peas.

The next time was at my birthday party, let's say my 7th. I don't remember actually, but I was still pretty young. It was a typical party with a bunch of kids and games. We were having hot dogs for lunch. Dad served me a hot dog with mustard on it. I said I liked ketchup. I didn't want to eat one with mustard. Dad said that's too bad. He already made this one with mustard and he wasn't going to waste it. I whined that somebody else could eat it. I wanted one with ketchup. The temper started to flare as he tells me, I made this one for you, Jen and you should be grateful that you get one. You're going to eat this one. I started crying. I don't like mustard Dad! The temper snaps. Oh yeah?! He takes the hot dog and mashes it all over my face. In front of all those other kids, at my own freakin' birthday party. Yeah.

What lessons were drawn from these incidents? Definitely that my dad was to be feared and I did fear him for about 20 years after that. Now that he's 65 and I'm 35, I feel sympathy for his food hang-ups but I don't fear him anymore. If anything, he might fear me. I inherited that temper too. And now I'm in the position of defending Griffin and Molly against him. That makes my temper come out real fast. Also, that food is something that should not be taken for granted and that we have to make sure there is enough for everyone. My dad still barks at Griffin if he takes a second helping of something. And this is my favorite weird rule, you are not allowed to take the last piece of something. He's adamant about this one. But EVERYONE follows this rule! As a result, I have seen a last piece of pie sit on the counter for days because the rest of the family is afraid to eat it until Pete gives the go-ahead.

What can I learn today? I don't know yet. I think writing about it is the first step to getting it into perspective. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3. Maybe I can makes some sense out of all of it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Puke In My Shoe

Today has been very eventful. It started early with my Weight Watchers meeting. I'm out of the 240s now! I stuck around afterward to talk to Judy, the leader. I really like her and her meetings. Many, no most, leaders focus a LOT on quibbling over calories. "Oh, look at this great new product! It's made almost completely from petro-chemicals but you can eat the whole boxful!" Once I actually witnessed this huge argument over how many calories are in carrots. Hello?! We are not fat from eating too many carrots!! Anyway, Judy runs the Saturday Sunrise meetings and she takes a much more philosophical approach. She wants to talk about habits and emotions, the "whys" behind bad choices.

So afterward I stay to talk to her about my reluctance to get into the kitchen and prepare healthy foods. After listening to all of my lame excuses, "It's too much work. I don't want to think about food," she says to me, "What about being in the kitchen are you afraid of?" Huh? Afraid? Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with all of these emotions about my history with food, particularly my family members and food. Many of you know that my little sister is bulimic and my parents literally kept locks on the refrigerator and cupboards when I was a teenager. Who me? Issues with food?

I told Judy just that little snippet and she asked, "Where is your sister now?" I kinda looked at the floor and replied, "Uh, she's still bulimic and now she's also a user who can't hold a job." Judy nodded and said, "And you're trying awfully hard to not be like her." Just like that, not a question, a matter of fact statement. Jesus Christ. I started crying. She gave me a hug and said to think about food and family this week.

Well, I didn't have time for that. I had to jump on the freeway for a two hour drive up the coast. My first choir performance was today. It was fantastic. I was jumping and singing and clapping so hard, the shirt under my robe was soaked in sweat. Now my robe I smells funky. :) Then the people who invited us to sing gave us a big potluck dinner. I ate too much. :( Then I had to jump back in the car and drive home to Eugene. I'm so exhausted.

I came right to the computer because I wanted to get that conversation with Judy down before I forgot it. Here's the cherry on top: I've been dealing with post-nasal drip ever since I got sick. It makes me cough pretty hard sometimes. So I'm sitting here at the computer, hacking away, and trying to clear the phlegm from my throat. Suddenly I was gagging and felt that big meal coming up. Not wanting to puke on my laptop, I turned to my right. Unfortunately that's where my shoes were. Ugh. Now there's puke in my left shoe. :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Harry and Sally Debate Continues

Alright, it seems that I need to tackle the Friends With Benefits topic. I’m getting a lot of questions about it. Let me start by saying that I actually overuse the term. I throw it around to mean anybody that I’ve seen more than once and slept with at least once, basically because I don’t have a term for guys that are in that weird limbo of not my boyfriend, not a real friend, yet I’ve had sex with. This is different from a ONS: One-Night Stand. Those are easy to identify. I’ve only had two real Friends With Benefits in my lifetime. One is still going strong at 2.5 years. The other turned into a boyfriend and that was not good.

I’ll start with Classic FWB. I met him during my VERY slutty phase after the divorce when ONSs were the norm. He called me back for a second ONS; is that an oxymoron? Weirdly, the second time we got into a lengthy discussion about philosophy. That was the start of being friends, at least on my part. I began to think this is somebody worth talking to. Over the next 2.5 years, we’ve gotten together semi-regularly for great sex and great conversations.

The most common question is, “If you can sustain a relationship for that long, why are you not a couple?” My answer is, “He’s a great friend but I’d hate him if I had to spend any real length of time with him.” The only reason we work is because we know that it’s NOT going anywhere. I could give you a whole list of why he’s wrong for me and why I’m wrong for him. In the beginning, maybe even the whole first year we knew each other, I had what I thought were romantic feelings for him. But the more I got to know him, the more I realized I wasn’t in love with him. I was in love with the idea of him. He’s 10 years younger, he’s free to do what he wants, he’s fit and good-looking, he’s intelligent, and kinda dangerous. Once I got over that romanticizing, then things went from rocky and sometimes good to pretty consistently great. I know who he is when he’s with me and I know the parameters are not going to change. That’s remarkably freeing. I can enjoy time with him without all the garbage that is normally in between me and men.

FWB 2.0 was Robert. I met him while I was living in Houston during the summer of 2008. We started out as great friends, with great benefits. Both of us knew that it wasn’t going to be anything more than a summer fling because we live 2500 miles apart. Duh. That freed me up to say what I was honestly thinking and just be myself. He could either take it or leave it. And he took it. When I went home to Oregon, things got messy. He started calling me every day and saying sweet things and dammit if my heart didn’t get all stupid and start making the decisions.

I was supposed to go back to Houston in the Fall and I got all twitchy. I didn’t want to sleep with him because suddenly I “liked” him. Well, I went down there and I did sleep with him but things were not the same. I found myself holding my tongue more and trying to make him like me. Hello, Jen? He liked you before! After that I asked him to be my boyfriend and the rest is tragic history. Both of us started acting differently and soon, neither one of us liked ourselves OR each other. I am still kicking myself that we didn’t just stay friends. We were good friends and the sex was a great bonus. I know we would have lasted a LOT longer if things hadn’t gotten romantic.

So there you have it. I think you can be friends with a man AND have sex with him. It's complicated but it works when both parties are honest with why they are there and there is time apart to process for yourself. It doesn’t mean I don’t want a partner. I do, when the time and the man are right. In the meantime, I’d rather sleep with someone who respects me and who I trust than a stranger.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

And No Message Could've Been Any Clearer...

Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer of our generation! I went to see "This Is It" last night. Holy shit, that guy was a genius. I didn't really know what to expect. I kinda thought it would just be footage of him performing his songs and it was that partly. But it was more than that too. It was him choosing the best dancers, musicians, and technicians from all over the world. Then they showed the rehearsals of everybody together. I don't know where he found the woman who was on lead guitar but she was sick! He was fine tuning the dancers, the balance of instruments, the stage movements. He really knew music and choreography; actually just showmanship in general. The whole thing was going to be amazing. And here's the weirdest part for me: watching him dance and sing and work his magic, I completely forgot to look at his face and I completely stopped thinking of him as a ghoul. He became human and a damn talented one, maybe the most talented man I've ever seen.

This is all nostalgic for me too. When I was in the 4th grade, Mr. Scott's class, I saved up my money to buy my first album, "Thriller." I remember that it was $12.99. MTV had just started and every fourth video was "Beat It." I played that record until it wore out. Do you remember that the album cover folded open? I actually took an old record from my parents and started keeping "Thriller" in that cover so that I could hang the centerfold of MJ and the baby tiger up on my wall! And then my teacher, who was the first black man I ever knew, told me about The Jackson 5 and "Off the Wall." After that, forget it, I was gone. I was devoted to his music for the next 25 years.

Anyway, the theater was giving out laminated tickets on lanyards, y'know, like backstage passes. So now I have my last MJ souvenir.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Weight-Loss Puzzle

I'm in the middle of week three of my race training program. It's going really well. I've also been doing the weight machines MWF. The little aches and pains are subsiding, and I feel good. I can definitely feel changes happening. What I'm currently struggling with is the eating program. There are so many rules to follow i.e. this much protein, this much milk, this much whole grains, this much water. All of the rules are there for a good reason. It's supposed to provide structure as I learn what a balanced diet actually looks like. I'm just struggling to motivate myself to do the work it takes to eat that way.

I really don't like to cook and I also don't have a very adventurous palette. I seriously had the same lunch for all four years of high school. I'm perfectly happy to eat the exact same thing every day as long as it requires minimum effort and thinking. Right now, that is not cutting it. At first, I changed what I was eating to fit the amount of calories that I am allowed on the plan. That went pretty good for a while. I've been on that plan for six weeks. The problem is that even though it's low calories, it's not balanced. I'm not getting enough fruits/vegetables or dairy. My diet is almost completely protein and carbs.

I think what I need to do now is make a daily menu that fits all the rules and the calories and then stick to it for a long while. I don't get bored eating the same things every day if I like them. So that's my next project. I've been dragging my feet on it for weeks obviously. I just don't want to do the work. Food is utilitarian for me, it always serves a function, but it's not something I take pleasure in for it's own sake. Cooking is something I dread. I'm much happier with something I can microwave and be done with in a few minutes with no cleanup. I feel like I need to do a spreadsheet or something and come up with all the combinations that work. Then bag them up so I can just grab something out of the fridge and heat it up. I foresee a lot of baked chicken and steamed veggies in my future.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Religion Part Deux

After thinking about this subject, I decided to download and watch Bill Maher's "Religulous." What a bizarre movie. It's basically Bill getting into people's faces and pushing their buttons, but the results are thought-provoking. It reaffirmed for me that although I believe in a Higher Power, the religions of mankind are fucked up! :)

Let Us Sing

My first choir performance is coming up this Saturday. We had a dress rehearsal last night where we ran through the full set. This choir is amazing. I really don't know how to describe it: that many people singing their hearts out to a higher power, it's electrifying. Plus, we really get rockin'! We do a great set of foot-stompin', hand-clappin', Black gospel. It's so much fun. And I get a robe. I'm dorky enough that I think that's cool.

Many of you know that I've struggled with church for a long time. I just haven't found a place where I fit in. There was a church in Corvallis that I called home for a couple of years, but then I moved away. I haven't found one that I like here in Eugene. I consider myself a Christian, but I don't like most Christian churches. Plus, there's the problem that I don't believe that Christianity is the only path to God. For that matter, I don't believe in God, in the sense that there's a man in the sky who decides if good or bad happens to us. I do believe there is a force greater than the material world can account for in this universe. I believe it is a force of good and it's our job to get in harmony with this higher power.

Why do I consider myself a Christian? Well, there's the rudimentary stuff like that's the religion of my extended family, it's what I am traditionally familiar with, and I was baptized. I could just as easily have been born to Jews or Muslims and make that work for me. For me, even though I don't go to church anymore, I still identify as Christian because I think Jesus had the right ideas. He was a radical who wanted everybody to have food, shelter, and loving care. I agree with my whole heart. Do I think other prophets are valid? Absolutely. Buddha said the same things. So did Mother Theresa. There have been plenty of men and women through history who have had a special line to the divine. I think they all have something to teach us. Christianity is just the language that I know. It connects me to my history and gives me a framework for my politics.

Wow. How did I get off on this tangent? Oh yeah, choir. Choir is great and it's giving me that line to the divine.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Disneyland Postponed

Griffin has a fever of 102 degrees. No Disneyland this week.


I think it is in men's DNA to perceive women as non-entities. There are good men out there who fight their program and attempt to treat women well, but most of them don't bother. I will never stop being surprised by men who can casually play a persona to put a woman at ease and get her to do what he wants. Then as soon as he has gotten what he came for, the persona disappears completely. It is frightening to me that men can be so blasé about violating a woman in that way.

But what is it they say? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a hundred times, shame, shame, deep shame on me.